small slivers of change
I am a big fan the concept of small slivers of change, which means the right dose of the right intervention at the right frequency, and I mean often. Often enough, strong enough, manageable enough for change to become reality. We could be talking about dieting, exercise, or any behavior change someone expects to improve their life.
A 12/31/14 article in the Well column in the New York Times about the "super short workout” and other fitness trends reported that small short bouts of intense activity (often called brief high intensity interval training) are more effective than longer, more sustained workouts.
In a series of recent studies on brief workouts, both mice and humans having brief, intense repeated exertion experienced “more potent changes" than those doing less intense workouts. It’s like resting between sets of lifting weights. The studies showed changes at a cellular level that lead to larger healthy muscles. An explanation for it the effectiveness of brief intense workouts was that for physical exercise to be effective, "sometimes you have to get out of your body's comfort zone".
As with working out, for psychotherapy to be effective, you need to have a different experience and feel it in your body. You need to recognize the experience as a different state of being, and take it again (repeatedly), so you know it’s not just a fluke, something people mistake improvements for.
A term use to I explain this phenomenon to couples I work with is the vacation effect. A struggling couple returns from vacation feeling reinvigorated and optimistic that things between them have changed, only to find the good feelings they had on vacation quickly fade, leaving them confused and discouraged a mere few days back into their normal routine.They want things to stay as they were on vacation
You can keep good things going. With careful questioning, you can discover what actually worked about being on vacation. It could be that you used your electronic devices less, had more privacy, or paid more attention to each other. Theses discoveries are different for everyone, and it’s best to take time to really look at what actually turned things around for you. Sometimes it’s not what you think. Sometimes it’s easier than you think.One couple discovered that preparing meals together lead to their talking more, which lead to them having sex again.
Careful questioning revealed which elements of the vacation could practically be put into into daily life,in small, frequent, intense doses, or intervals (back to that workout). It’s so worthwhile to have daily routines that work for you, so you’re not just waiting for another vacation for things to be good again.
New habits may seem hard to form but are actually easy, once you understand how they work. Recognize a new behavior, one that works for you. See what works about it. Remember how it feels. Do it again. Take it in. Repeat till it becomes your new normal. When you have small sliver of a good habit inserted in to your everyday life, your perceptions change along with the your habits. And things keep getting better.